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Thread: Is philosophy relevant anymore?

  1. #46
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    I listened to the song. What do you think of the movie "Melancholia"? https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/melancholia-2008/

  2. #47
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    Seems a bit like a fraudulent hock of crap?






    J





    Sorry, just being obnoxious. It actually looks pretty interesting.
    Last edited by Jack of Hearts; 07-30-2016 at 11:20 PM.

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    If I recall correctly, Science is an off-shoot of Philosophy, as in, Philosophy subsumes Science.

    I believe Science is credited as having been developed by Francis Bacon with his invention of The Scientific Method in his Novum Organum. Science was initially labeled Natural Philosophy, but much like children that grow up and divorce themselves from their parents, so too did Science from Philosophy.

    I need know nothing more than that to ascertain Philosophy's perennial worth.

  4. #49
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    I'm not sure if you are positive or negative toward Philosophy, Vota.

    Let me ask a question that could be considered both philosophical and scientific that I have been thinking about lately and that introduces more specific ideas: Do you think that artificial intelligence is possible?

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    "I need know nothing more than that to ascertain Philosophy's perennial worth." - Vota

    I was implying that because Philosophy spawned Science, Philosophy is indeed worthwhile. I could have gone further and talked about how Philosophy asks questions and leads to imaginative thinking - both of which can help Science. Philosophy can also provide moral guidance through ethics; it can teach people how to reason better and think logically; it strengthens the mind etc.

    I have the deepest respect for Philosophy.

    As to your question, I do believe Artificial Intelligence is possible. If your question is approached from a biological perspective, and if you believe in The Theory of Evolution, then humans attained self awareness over time, through constant reiteration into a form that was capable of it. One might look at the development of technology in a similar matter, except, rather than evolution and natural selection being the marionettist of human development, humans have taken that position in relation to the development of AI. It think it is only a matter of time before it happens. It may have already happened for all we know, considering the secrets our governments keep from us.

    I don't have much knowledge about AI or technology for that matter, other than building computers, which isn't any harder to do than basic mechanic work, so I can only engage in guesswork with this question. My philosophical knowledge is also pretty limited at this point in time, so there's also that to take into consideration.

    The saying, "Science Fiction tends to become reality," is an accurate statement IMO. People were writing about space travel, deep sea travel, advanced technologies and more, long before it actually happened. I don't see AI being any different.

    I'm in the camp that thinks this is a very slippery slope. The recent HBO TV show West World exposes many of the problems that AI brings with it. The Terminator movies are merely the doom and glood aspect, but what of rights, self determination, and the myriad considerations and problems that AI will bring with it? What happens if an AI in a computer program decides it would like a physical body to move around in. Can an AI be allowed to own a gun? What happens if an AI rapes a human? What happens when the AI are smarter than the humans that made them? The list is nearly endless. Perhaps AI will be the key to unlocking Interstellar travel that occurs within the lifespan of the average human being. Maybe AI will help Transhumanism efforts, allowing people to live hundreds of years? Perhaps all diseases will be cured? Who knows?

    Slippery slope.

  6. #51
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    That clarifies my initial wonder since you do think philosophy is valuable. Some think science has replaced the need for it, or rather models used by science are all that one needs: reality is whatever model currently works.

    For my part I think science ends when data gathering and analysis are complete with a model that can be put to use. As soon as one speculates that the model represents reality as it is, then one is talking philosophy.

    The question about AI brings out this distinction between science and philosophy. People who think AI is possible allow for two possibilities: strong AI, where machines are actually conscious, and weak AI, where one thinks that those machines just might be conscious. There is a third possibility they don't mention that is likely more commonly believed: no AI, there is no point in even fantasizing that those machines are conscious. I'm of the "no AI" opinion. For example, when my smart phone breaks, I get a new one and trade the old one in if possible. I don't give the old one a funeral. I don't cry over it like I might a beloved pet.

    So what justifies a no AI opinion? Or a strong or weak AI position? That would have to be a philosophic argument about reality because the underlying mathematical model used to program artificial intelligence, that is, the underlying science is not in question. We all use it.

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    I can't offer much more on AI other than my initial comments as I'd end up talking out of my ***.

    Philosophy is clearly worthwhile for some very obvious reasons. If one does not choose to follow a religion, then how is one to conduct themself around others? Science cannot teach you how to be a "good" person, or how to rightly act towards others. Cultural and societal norms aren't necessarily good guides for behavior. Sure, you can use the Scientific Method to run experiments by forming hypotheses about how X saying or action will produce Y result in a person, run the experiment, and then observe the results and analyze the data, but that's stupid - because Ethics already guides with a moral compass, and provides many logical reasons as to why its tenets should be followed.

    Personally, I think Philosophy's primary worth in modern times is as a mental strengthener and moral compass for those that are not religious. A "proper" Christian has a great moral foundation. The Ten Commandments and the Gospels of Jesus cover a lot of ground in how to act towards others, and the saying, "Do unto others as ye would have done unto you" really is the Golden Rule, subsuming all other commandments if legitimately considered before each saying or action one commits to. This is probably why I find myself drawn to Kant despite hearing of the difficulty of his work. The Categorical Imperative makes sense to me, and seems to be an elaboration of the Golden Rule.

    But if one is not religious, then Philosophy can provide some semblance of consolation, similar to, if not as strong, as faith based systems. The Man on the Hill from the book Tom Jones said it well before proselytizing the superiority of religion, "They elevate the mind, and steel and harden it against the capricious invasions of fortune. They not only instruct in the Knowledge of Wisdom, but confirm men in her habits, and demonstrate plainly that this must be our guide, if we propose ever to arrive at the greatest worldly happiness, or to defend ourselves with any tolerable security against the misery which everywhere surrounds and invests us."
    Last edited by Vota; 12-24-2016 at 08:34 AM.

  8. #53
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    I think we agree on the relevance of philosophy.

    Regarding morality, the Buddha's middle way seems to me to make sense. One is moral so one can get on with the more important activity of being human. It involves choices even when it is done unconsciously, that is, when one is not explicitly aware of each choice/action such as how one moves the feet when one is walking. But I don't know much about Buddhism.

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    Siddharta Gautama, founder of Buddhism, viewed suffering as a basic condition of life, being caused by the lack of personal enlightenment, that is, the lack of being aware of the Nirvana. Not being enlightened means to cling to ephemeral thoughts, emotions, and material shapes, and thereby to expose oneself to the experience of disappointment, illness, pain, and death. There is, according to Buddha, only one ´place´ of true bliss: the Nirvana, the deathless dimension. Existing in the Samsara, the world of ephemeral phenomena, is necessarily accompanied by suffering, even if temporarily the illusion of happiness and fulfilment can be produced due to the effect of the imaginary ego-function.

    A central Buddhist idea is the concept of ´non-self´ (an-atman) by which Buddha rejected the Brahmanic teaching of ´Brahman = true self´. This concept aims at preventing the adept from clinging to the idea of a self (or ego). Samsara and Nirvana are two poles of an existential dualism, since Buddha thought the Samsara to be real and not just an illusion (maya), as the Brahmanism teaches. Therefore, Buddha can be called a dualist, what is contrary to monistic Brahmanism.

    However, some centuries later Mahayana Buddhism converged with Brahmanism concerning the monistic nature of the world.

    Early Buddhism (Hinayana), which was exclusively based on Buddha´s teaching, hold that the phenomenal world consists of ´dharmas´ (basic factors of existence), including dharmas as elements of the material world as well as dharmas as elements of the mental world (consciousness and thinking). Both these elementary categories are not recognizable for the sensory organs. Since they have no substance or essence, they emerge and decay according to the principle of causality, the so-called ´conditional nexus´ (or ´causal nexus´). Thus they are empty of self-being or essence, however, they ´exist´.

    This very form of existence is denied by later Mahayana Buddhism by creating the innovative concept of ´Shunyata´ (emptiness). The protagonist of this school was Nagarjuna, teaching that all things (or dharmas) not only lack essence or self-being, but also existence. The basic idea of this was the insight into the incapability of conceptional thinking to seize the true nature of the world. Notions such as dharma, existence, being, and non-being cannot appropriately describe reality and therefore have to be dialectically negated. Paradoxically, ´Shunyata´ is thus a concept which basically denies conceptional thinking because it produces mere illusion. To put it quite simply, Nagarjuna´s method was to negate concepts as well as their opposites, for example:

    There is being.

    There is no being.

    There is being and there is non-being.

    There is neither being nor non-being.

    (and so on)

    According to the concept of Shunyata the true nature of the world is unrecognizable by means of conceptual thinking. However, it is recognizable by means of meditative expansion of consciousness.

    As to that, Mahayana Buddhism differs from the philosophy of Immanuel Kant who thought the objects of the phenomenal world to be constituted solely by innate mental structures on the basis of sense-data, which on their part are also not mirroring the true thing which Kant coined the´Thing-in-itself´, existing far beyond the reach of consciousness and basically unattainable for it.
    Last edited by Tammuz; 01-02-2017 at 12:26 PM.

  10. #55
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    The issue of dualism and monism is confusing. Your description, Tammuz, seems to make sense.

    My own view of it, which changes, is monistic. The world around me is not an illusion, but my view of what it is might be an illusion. I sort of agree with the Shunyata position the real world is "unrecognizable by means of conceptual thinking" except I think we can get some insight through the use of concepts. The problem is that we cannot completely objectify subjective consciousness which is what concepts attempt to do. So concepts will ultimately fail.

    The world including ourselves is an immanent manifestation of consciousness. It is all Mind or Consciousness and we are part of it. When we look at it and manipulate it we think it is unconscious stuff. That is our illusion, but it is not an illusion. It is really there. It is just not unconscious matter as our concepts would tend to describe it.

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    Maybe Hegel gives a useful hint to a solution of the dilemma whether reality is dualistic or monistic. In his view, it is both, that is, dialectical. The individual subject is merely a reflex or stadium of the absolute subject, the world spirit (WS). In the beginning, the WS externalizes into objectivity, thereby constituting the counterpart of objectivity, that is, subjectivity (consciousness). This is, with a non-Hegelian term, ´involution´. Thus the WS has split into contrary poles. However, these poles are totally dependent on one another, they are two sides of one coin, the WS. This contradiction is, for Hegel, indissoluble.

    Absolute knowledge is only possible by completely seeing through this state of affairs. This process is called ´reflexion´. By this the WS, split into a manifold of individual consciousnesses, gets self-awareness and self-knowledge until the point of absolute knowledge. This ascending process is ´evolution´.

    Moreover, Hegel holds that the subject is identical with substance, which is the totality of consciousness operations and transformations.

    In this view the material world seems to vanish into thin air since it serves only the development of absolute consciousness and has no being in itself. It seems to me, however, that the dialectical approach is a step in the right direction: consciousness is not an individual achievement but a universal quality in which individuals merely are participating, a bit in the sense of the sort of transcendent participation which Plato coins ´methexis´, but not in ideas but in a more Brahmanic type of absolute spirit, such as Brahman.

    Hegel´s ideas could be synchronized with Nagarjuna´s concept of Shunyata in the following way: rational cognition is operated by dialectical understanding of conceptional transformations, as Hegel takes it; spiritual cognition transcends this level by entering the dimension of Shunyata. According to Nagarjuna there are two levels of truth: the conventional truth and the ultimate truth. The first is recognized by the rational operations of mind which have, on this level, a mind-expanding function; the second is recognized by transcending the categories of mind which are, on this level, restricting true knowledge. Najarjuna emphasizes the constructive value of conventional truth for teaching the ultimate truth, see quote below. However, if conventional truth is hold to be ultimate truth, things go wrong.

    So we have at least four levels of knowledge:

    (1) The level of opposition of subject and recognizable object (everyday consciousness)

    (2) The level of opposition of subject and non-recognizable object (Kantian consciousness)

    (3) The level of dialectical unity of subject and object (Hegelian consciousness)

    (4) The level of non-existence of subject and object (Mahayana and Zen Buddhism consciousness)

    Nagarjuna in ´Mūlamadhyamakakārikā´:

    The Buddha's teaching of the Dharma is based on two truths: a truth of worldly convention and an ultimate truth. Those who do not understand the distinction drawn between these two truths do not understand the Buddha's profound truth. Without a foundation in the conventional truth the significance of the ultimate cannot be taught. Without understanding the significance of the ultimate, liberation is not achieved.
    Hegel in ´Phenomenology of Spirit´:

    Raised above perception, consciousness exhibits itself closed in a unity with the supersensible world through the mediating term of appearance, though which it gazes into this background (lying behind appearance). The two extremes (of this syllogism), the one, of the pure inner world, the other, that of the inner being gazing into this pure inner world, have now coincided, and just as they, qua extremes, have vanished, so too the middle term, as something other than these extremes, has also vanished. This curtain (of appearance) hanging before the inner world is therefore drawn away, and we have the inner being (the ‘I’) gazing into the inner world - the vision of undifferentiated selfsame being, which repels itself from itself, posits itself as an inner being containing different moments, but for which equally these moments are immediately not different - self-consciousness.
    My philosophical favorit Ken Wilber writes on this issue:

    http://www.kenwilber.com/Writings/PD...OSMOS_2004.pdf
    Last edited by Tammuz; 01-06-2017 at 03:06 PM.

  12. #57
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    I haven't finished reading the Wilbur text you cited, but I don't normally think "emergence" is a correct approach to increased complexity in systems. For example Wilber writes, page 3, "...when life...emerges 'out of' matter...". The need to quote the "out of" implies that the concept of emergence is not clear, but the metaphor is that life can be reduced to matter even when that is denied.

    I don't think there is any emergence or supervenience going on: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supervenience

    Also, I haven't read Hegel. The "dialectical" appears to be a way to allow change to occur and this needs explanation. The change is neither random nor deterministic although from an aggregate perspective it may appear to be so. That would be one source of the illusion. I think that evolutionary change occurs in non-random, self-affine fractals like Elliott Waves in market analysis rather than Mandelbrot's random fractals.

    I'll read more of the Wilber article. I think you have referenced him in the past. I just wanted to post an initial reaction.

    Edit: After reading more of the Wilber article, he appears to describe reality as a top-down process. I view emergence as a bottom-up process. Matter is exterior to the interior spirit. I could then interpret matter as an ephiphenomenon of spirit or as an emergent property of spirit. That would fit my monistic perspective.
    Last edited by YesNo; 01-07-2017 at 07:36 AM.

  13. #58
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    I've looked a little more into Ken Wilber's writings and also his site http://www.kenwilber.com/home/landing/index.html

    I am not sure what his message is. So far it seems vague. Part of my problem is I don't trust modern thinking that references science whether that comes from materialists or New Age spiritualists. If he cited more research to support his theory, I would be more receptive to it.

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    "As the progress of mathematical and experimental sciences accelerates, so too does the decay of subjectivity, the dissolution of the self, the disappearance of consciousness into the unconscious, and in short, of the 'ego cogitans' into the dark jungle of neurophysiology."-Stanley Rosen

    Philosophy is now more alive than ever. Science can not answer the particular questions that man needs to ask.

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    I agree with you, Alvin. There is no way to avoid philosophy. People do it without realizing they are doing it.

    I also like your quote of Stanley Rosen.

    As soon as one uses a mathematical model one makes two philosophic assumptions:

    (1) What one is modeling can be reduced to points.
    (2) Those points are individuated.

    Doing this leads to practical benefits in some restricted contexts and the technology we use today is proof of it. This success leads to an metaphysical belief that EVERYTHING including consciousness can be modeled by reducing it to individuated, unconscious points. That is a generalization that is not warranted by either reason or empirical science. It is a belief.

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